How to be a better designer

How to be a better designer

Favour foundation over decoration.

Train simple and timeless skills well so you can be an expert at the fundamentals.

Fundamentals don’t go out of fashion.


Prioritise creating timeless work.

All work eventually ages. But bias your work towards timelessness instead of creating work that is of a time.


Study the greats.

  • Alan Fletcher.
  • Paul Rand.
  • Massimo Vignelli.
  • Saul Bass.
  • Michael Beirut.
  • Milton Glaser.
  • Stefan Sagemeister.
  • Ian Anderson.
  • Neville Brody.
  • Paula Scher.
  • Kate Moross.
  • Margaret Calvert.

This list is not exhaustive.

Study creatives from other mediums.

Even people who might not have associated with the word “creative”.

  • David Ogilvy.
  • George Lois.
  • Claude C. Hopkins.
  • Gary Halbert.

This list is also non-exhaustive.

Understand where your craft came from.

Know why it’s called leading, tracking, kerning.

An appreciation of what came before you gives you an appreciation and respect for the craft.


Practice daily.

This doesn’t need any further explanation.


Learn how to create fast ideas.

You are an idea creation machine.

You trade in ideas.

Your first 100 ideas will be bad on every project so learn how to get them out of the way faster.


Communicate good ideas simply.

If you can’t display a good idea simply, find a better idea.


The higher purpose of all design is to communicate an idea.

Remove anything that doesn’t serve that higher purpose.


Remove your ego.

Your goal isn’t to show how clever of a designer you are.

Your goal is to show how clever the content is. The thing you are communicating.

Learn to say no.

Clients are often wrong. You will have to tell them so.

If you don’t learn to say no your work will be forever reduced to a client’s understanding of design.


Learn to say yes.

Clients are often right. You will have to agree with them.

Learn to notice when you are wrong and when you are right.


Better ideas

Clients often have better ideas than you.

Your mum will often have better ideas than you.

Your dog will often have better ideas than you.

But you often have to use the idea that’s closest to you and that you can make work.

So use it and make it the best you can.

There’s always a better idea waiting for you.

But you don’t have the time to wait.


Study comedy, stand-up and famous storytellers.

They are masters of communicating complex ideas in a simple way.


And finally. And probably the most important.

You won’t do this last thing because it scares you.

Or you feel like you’re above it.

Prove you are a good designer daily out in public.

It serves 3 purposes:

  1. You will become known for being a good designer
  2. You will become a better designer
  3. You will have nowhere to hide

Being known for being a good designer and being a good designer require two completely different skill sets.


You can always become a better designer even if you think you’re already a good designer.


Testing your ideas

Testing your ideas in public on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook will give you instant feedback on what works.

Like how comedians test their comedy in clubs, you need to test your ideas out in the real world.

Stop hiding.


P.S. This originally started out as a Twitter thread.